Monday, 4 October 2010

Wearing the Badge of our Faith

Archbishop Nichols, of Westminster, has encouraged Catholics to witness to their faith in small but significant ways: for example, by saying “God bless you” or by making the Sign of the Cross in public. These may seem like little things, but they are important, particularly in the social and legislative climate of our country these days.

I have a beautiful lapel pin, which I bought when I joined the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales. It shows their logo, which I have pasted at the head of this post. The chasuble is red, and everything else is white, with all the outlines, and the Cross, in gold. In the light of Archbishop Nichols’s exhortation, I will try to make sure that I wear the badge on my coat as a regular thing. It could be a real conversation piece, and it is full of teaching possibilities.

Having said that, of course, the question arises: am I up to the task of dealing with the questions and challenges - to say nothing of anything more adversarial - which may be directed at me when those I meet realise I am a Catholic? Those of us who may be unfamiliar with the work of presenting or defending our faith, or who may be rusty in these skills, may be rather daunted at the prospect of explaining it. On a practical note, I think it’s important to gain confidence, and not to feel one must waffle when responding to enquirers. It’s perfectly all right to admit that we can’t do justice to this or that question, but that we will try to find out all we can for the next occasion.

There is a major and urgent need to plug the gaps in Catholics’ knowledge of the Faith. And there is also the problem that the poor catechesis many people have received will result in some eccentric versions (no, I’m beating about the bush here; we all know I mean false versions) of our faith finding their way into the unsuspecting ears of enquirers.

Most glaringly, there is that all-excusing misrepresentation of the idea of “following one’s conscience”, which seems to have become fixed in the minds of so many Catholics. The more knowledgeable kind of non-Catholic will not be at all impressed if a Catholic tells him that “We don’t have to follow the Church’s teachings; we can follow our own consciences and decide for ourselves”.

There is another thing to consider. While allowing that we are all sinners, and without beating myself up about it, I’m going to have to do my best to practise the virtues, and to be seen to be trying to do so. Otherwise the behaviour that is seen won’t match the words that are heard, or the Catholic symbols that are worn. There have been some glaring examples of this in the media recently. We will be held to very high standards.

To sum up: the Archbishop’s words, which are ostensibly quite simple and restricted, are really full of potential; but they must be built on. If each of us, and our bishops and clergy, make the effort, it will be to the intellectual and spiritual benefit of all concerned.


Webmaster Gareth said...

One easy way I always do whether walking or in the car, when a funeral cortege goes past: make the sign of the cross and say a small prayer.

The mourners may see it and will then know that some stranger is saying a prayer for the soul of their friend/relative.

They may or may not be Catholic but this act of charity to a stranger and public act of Faith may make an impact on some.

We should also remember that in this age of instant canonisation of all the dead, some poor souls may not have a friend or relative praying for their immortal soul.

Dorothy said...

Thanks for your comment, Gareth. I couldn't agree more!

puzzled said...

Hello Dorothy

A very interesting post, indeed. When I was growing up, Catholics always blessed themselves when passing a Catholic Church or a cemetery. The one was to honour Jesus in the tabernacle and the other was a prayer for the holy souls. Earlier this year, two of my brothers died, not in this country. I went for the funerals and I was touched and very impressed by what I saw. As the funeral cortage wended its way to church and then cemetery, pedestrians stopped and stood in respect and some even blessed themselves. Also, at junctions and traffic lights, other traffic that was not part of the funeral allowed the funeral cars to proceed without cutting them off or getting in ahead of them. It was all amazing and something you don't see very often. It gives you hope doesn't it?

Thanks Dorothy and God bless you.

Dorothy said...

Thank you, Puzzled. I'm sorry that you and your family have had such a sad time this year. You are quite right; these are excellent ways to show our faith, and also to show respect and solidarity for those who have died, and for the bereaved. There are so many opportunities for us to give witness and to show Christian love, in quiet and gentle ways.